Friday, February 1, 2008

What's White About Chili?

I like chili. Hearty, flavorful, spicy chili. But its always red. Why? We think of tomatoes, beans, ground beef and chili powder. This is the classic and common method to making chili, and what I was pondering while working out a recipe for turkey chili. Yes, you could probably swap out beef for turkey, but the beef has more flavor that stands up to the tomatoes and spice you put in traditional chili. In fact, I was pretty sure the chili I make most of the time is not "traditional" because, first off, it has beans. But that is not why we are here. This is about turkey chili.

Why can't turkey chili be a different focus all together? For this, I turned to one of my all-time favorite varieties, chili verde. I have fond memories of this (it is mainly a pork based chili braised in chicken stock and green chiles) from Albuquerque where it is sold at a balloon festival with a shot of Jack Daniels. At four in the morning. No lie. Well, turkey goes well with green chiles, and it likes mild, subtle flavors. So I went about looking for a recipe for a green or white chili.

I was severely disappointed. I do not want thyme, basil, and cocoa powder(?!) in my chili. That's not what I was after. I wanted smokey, spicy, and earthy flavors. Uh oh, this was turning out to be one of those hit or miss moments my girlfriend hates. She gives me this look of despair and hopes we don't have to order out.

Lucky for her (and me), this chili turned out awesome. It has everything I wanted, the flavor, the texture, and the turkey was not washed away in a bed of tomatoes. This is a slightly spicy dish, if you want more or less, adjust the amount of chipotles you add. Barley gives some texture to the dish (not to mention it's healthy). Thanks to the 6 inches of snow we just received here, this dish will give you some serious comfort.

White(ish) Turkey Chili

Olive Oil
1 pound ground turkey (at least 90/10, I like 95/5)
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, diced
2 chipotle peppers in their adobo sauce, diced
2 4 oz. cans diced green chiles
1 10oz can green enchilada sauce
1 12-15 oz can tomatillos (I don't remember the exact size - you can find these in the Mexican isle at the grocery store), drained and chopped
1 cup dry pearled barley
2 15oz . cans chicken stock
1 15oz. can cannellini bean beans, rinsed
1 T Cumin
1 T Chili Powder (go for the Ancho kind, its smokey)
1 T cornmeal
1 T tomato paste
Sour cream

Heat about 2-3T of olive oil over medium heat in a good sized pot. Add onion and cook until slightly wilted, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook one minute longer. Add turkey, breaking it apart and cooking until it has lost its pink color. Add the chipotles, cumin, chili powder, and some salt and pepper. Stir and cook for about 1 minute. Add green chiles, tomatillos, enchilada sauce, and pearled barley, followed by chicken stock. Stir, bring to a boil and lower heat to a simmer. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes. Add beans and cook 10 more minutes, or until barley becomes only slightly chewy. Remove lid, stir in cornmeal and tomato paste, and cook for about 5 more minutes. The chili will thicken nicely. Serve topped with a bit of sour cream.

Is it white? Kind of. Is it green? Kind of. Is it awesome? You betcha


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